A convergence of state and federal legislation could ease restrictions on carrying concealed firearms nationwide, a long-sought goal of gun-rights activists that their opponents say would threaten public safety.
More states are giving their residents the right to carry a concealed handgun without permission from authorities including two this year, bringing the total to 12 while Congress is considering legislation to make that right portable across state lines.
New Hampshire, for example, eliminated the need for permits this year, allowing anyone who can legally own a gun to carry it concealed in public.
If bills introduced by Rep. Richard Hudson (R., N.C.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) become law, a New Hampshire resident could bring his or her concealed handgun to any other state, even those such as New York that require their own residents to undergo vetting and obtain approval from law-enforcement officials for the same right.
The legislation, introduced in January, has broad support among Republicans, who hold a two-vote majority in the Senate. But it would need 60 votes for Senate passage, a steep climb in this hyperpartisan climate.
If passed, the measure could hasten the spread of permitless-carry laws, which were rejected in at least 15 states where lawmakers introduced bills in the most recent legislative sessions, gun-control activists said. States with strict permit regimes likely would face pressure to lower their standards to make carrying guns as easy for their residents as for out-of-state visitors.